That is to say, Alan Watts irrevocably impacted the way I look at who I am (indeed, at what I am), at the way I look at my life, at the way I look at Life itself, at the way I look at what my prudent choices are in the matter of living my life.
To experience Alan for the first time is a pivotal moment for anyone. Whether it be through reading any of his many erudite and brilliant exposés of Zen, or whether you've been fortunate enough to attend his seminars. Once you've experienced Alan, you've crossed a line you can never pull back from - and neither would you ever want to.
Alan W (Wilson) Watts, an Englishman, became a priest in the Episcopal Church. In any religion or metaphysical school of thought, the associated philosophical doctrine explains who we are, how we got here, and where we're going. The job a priest takes on is to disseminate the doctrine of the church. By any account (including his own) Alan would have been brilliant at being an Episcopalian.
Yet also by his own account, upon looking within his own experience of who he is as a human being, indeed upon looking within his own experience at what it is to be a human being, Alan found himself to be at odds with the church. He noticed, with deeper and deeper profundity, the unavoidable fact that he couldn't fully account for or reconcile his experience of who he really is within the doctrine of the church.
Maintaining integrity, he met with and discussed his realizations with the church elders. After noticing their fundamental disagreement inside of the direction his life was going anyway, Alan renounced the priesthood, becoming instead one of the west's foremost exponents of Zen.
For Alan, Zen had very practical, prudent applications. Alan was aware of an application of Zen beyond merely the distinction between who you really are - Self - and mind, more practical even than knowing who you are. What Alan had noticed is that society isn't structured or set up to teach people (young people, in particular) who they really are. On the contrary, what Alan isolated was that in our society, it's not simply that we don't know who we really are, and it's not simply that we don't teach in schools who we really are. Alan isolated society's rampant, active, avoidance of being who we really are, the no no of being who we really are.
Alan articulated this no no of society as "the taboo against knowing who you are".
He then asked himself "What's the most useful information I can give my son Mark? It's not taught in schools. It's avoided in life. If I could tell Mark one thing that would equip him for life in the world as best as I can equip him for life in the world, the most useful information I can give Mark is the low down on the taboo against knowing who you are.
Alan realized the book he'd like to give Mark containing this useful information wasn't given in schools. In fact, it wasn't even written yet. Alan realized he would write that book for his son Mark, the book on the taboo against knowing who you are.
A far cry from the heady world of Zen, Alan's intention for The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are was for it to be a guide for young people generally. He dedicated The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are to his children and to his grandchildren, then published it as Mark, his eldest son, turned thirteen.
Read this book.
You'll not only hear Alan in full cry, at his most brilliant clearest simplest best, the erstwhile Episcopal priest turned Self-made west's foremost exponent of Zen, but you'll also hear Mark and his siblings and their children listening intently to their father and grandfather Alan, mouths dropped open in rapt attention. And perhaps just as endearingly you'll also hear a young Werner Erhard absorbing, like a sponge, information from a master pointing him to the critical distinction between Self and mind, a key bastion in the foundation of transformation.
Thwarting our furtive, frustrated dreams and aspirations embedded in what we try to attain and where we try to get to in order (we hope) to reach a better place, Alan coined the phrase "This is It". Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Nothing to get. THIS IS IT.
That's extraordinary. That's profound. For many, it's too simple. It's maddening in fact. Indeed, Zen can be maddening. We're not ready for the Zen of THIS IS IT. We're not ready to give up all the meaning.
That's the second work of the many Alan produced which, for me, is worth the money many, many times over: the exposé he titled "This is it".
You could say enlightenment is giving up the notion you're unenlightened.
This is it.
I actually like it better when it's said enlightenment is giving up the notion you're enlightened (as James Tsutsui may have said). Doesn't that take the arrogance, the hoity toity, the significance, the meaningfulness out of it for you?
This is it. Nothing to do. This is it. Nowhere to go. This is it. Nothing to get. This is it. Be here now. This is it.
Alan was the kind of guy who simply said earlier than most what we all eventually realized for ourselves. A true pioneer says things that sooner or later, everyone takes for granted, that sooner or later, everyone knows to be true. Then we say that its in the public domain. Yet we forget how it got there, into the public domain, in the first place. We forget our pioneers. Alan didn't ask to be lionized or to be immortalized. He was probably too busy chopping wood, carrying water, making tea to care or to be bothered. But for me, as a matter of principle and as a matter of integrity, it's just plain healthy to acknowledge from where and from whom we get what we get.
I acknowledge Alan. Personally. Privately. Publicly. Thank You Mr Watts. Thank You Alan.
I've attended lots of Werner's seminars. There's really only one word I can think of to describe the quality which allows for the complex, expanding space Werner brings forth in his seminars through his speaking (within my listening) in which people unerringly get who they really are ... AND ... the possibilities they can invent for their futures. That word is mastery - total, vibrant, brilliant, full, absolute mastery.
In this space of mastery around Werner, I've gotten how to lead seminars. I've had no formal training. I've got no recipe nor style. There's no strategy I follow. I've got no format I've studied and learned to deliver. In the olden days, we got whatever we got just by being around Werner. Now, when I lead a seminar, I'm simply being the way Werner be's when he's leading. Magic happens in that room. I don't know why ... and I do know why.
So to me, the idea of Werner attending seminars himself, and Alan's seminars in particular, is really a link back, a lineage. And while tradition and the very notion of lineage aren't required to authenticate Werner bringing his work forth out of his experience of himSelf, if I could think of and acknowledge only one source of tradition and lineage for Werner's work, I would gracefully, gratefully, and with a heart wide open with thanks, acknowledge Alan for creating the space for Werner to come forth ... and for me to come forth ... and for all of us to come forth as who I am. Gracefully, gratefully, and with a heart wide open with thanks, I acknowledge Alan for gleefully doing such irreparable violence to the taboo against knowing who you are. It's an astonishing, immeasurable contribution to the human race.
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